Pandemic Stress led to Worsened IBS Symptoms
Your IBS and digestive stress might have worsened after two years in a pandemic state.
The uncertainty of living through COVID times was universally challenging. If you are one of the more than 25 million people in the U.S. struggling with irritable bowel syndrome, it may have been even more difficult.
A recent NPR report shares that IBS patients with anxiety or depression saw their symptoms worsen due to increased stress surrounding COVID-19. And for those without IBS, pandemic stress may have resulted in first-time symptoms.
The University of Washington School of Medicine surveyed IBS patients to learn about their pandemic experience. They found increased reports of abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhea due to upticks in stress. Over 90% responded that they had increased stress, while 81% reported increased anxiety.
A separate study done by a pharmaceutical company found that half of IBS patients feel their symptoms have been more challenging since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, what really causes IBS symptoms to get worse?
IBS was once considered a gut problem; however, the medical community now knows that changes in the nervous system, brain and gut interact to cause IBS symptoms.
Stress is a key factor that can trigger IBS symptoms or make them more severe. Increased feelings of uncertainty, isolation and access to fewer supportive resources may have taken a toll.
Inadequate diet, sleep, exercise and social connection are also important to IBS health too. It can be hard to manage these activities when preoccupied with stress and anxiety of what’s going to happen next.
If you are concerned about what triggers your digestive health, your doctor may also look for infection or bacterial overgrowth. Specific testing can take a closer look at what is happening in your body.
After which, a holistic approach can help you heal your gut, balance your diet, and manage the stress that may be making your symptoms worse.
Functional Medicine Can Help
If you have felt the stressful impacts of the last two years on your IBS, functional medicine can help you take control of your symptoms and return your digestive symptoms back to optimal function.
Functional medicine providers will get to the root cause of your flare up, using in-depth testing to help identify imbalance and/or bacterial overgrowth. From there, a comprehensive treatment can be established to help reduce stress on the digestive system and get symptoms back under control. Treatment will include necessary (and customized) dietary and lifestyle suggestions to boost gut health and help regulate the body’s response to stress.
Relieve Stress with Acupuncture
When it comes to managing emotional health, acupuncture can help alleviate stress and anxiety while releasing endorphins in the brain – which are natural pain-killing chemicals.
Acupuncture can also target specific areas to encourage healthy blood flow and regulation in the body. This helps with reducing bloating, inflammation and can even help manage pain caused by your IBS symptoms.
The experience of receiving acupuncture treatment itself is relaxing in and of itself. Providers offer a safe, therapeutic environment and often use comforting heat lamps and blankets to make the experience as soothing as possible.
Manage your IBS Today
A flare up of IBS symptoms is not fun, especially as we head into summer and all the fun activities that come with it. Take the time to focus on yourself and get your IBS symptoms under control so you can enjoy the months to come.
We offer Functional Medicine both in-clinic and online – now serving several states across the nation. In addition, we work with many major insurance providers to help make your care more accessible.
Fill out the form below to get in touch with our care team and book your appointment today.